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The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 19 : The Licensure of Candidates for the Gospel Ministry and Internship

Paragraph 1 :

19-1. To preserve the purity of the preaching of the Gospel, no man is permitted to preach in the pulpits of the Presbyterian Church in America on a regular basis without proper licensure from the Presbytery having jurisdiction where he will preach. An ordained teaching elder who is a member in good standing of another Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America may be licensed after being examined as to his views, according to the provision of BCO 13-6. This license shall immediately become void if the minister's own Presbytery administers against him a censure of suspension from office or the sacraments, or deposition from office, or of excommunication (in the event of such censures, the Presbytery with jurisdiction shall always notify the licensing Presbytery). A ruling elder, a candidate for the ministry, a minister from some other denomination, or some other man may be licensed for the purpose of regularly providing the preaching of the Word upon his giving satisfaction to the Presbytery of his gifts and passing the licensure examination. (See also BCO 22-5 and 22-6.)

DIGEST: The current PCA text dates to 1997 [M25GA, 25-17, Item 4, p. 119], with previous changes having been made in 1981 [M9GA, 9-65, Item 5, p. 133]. In 1973, a motion to amend what was then BCO 20-1 resulted in the erection of an Ad-Interim Committee to Study the Question of Ruling Elders Administering the Sacraments. Following the presentation of that Committee's majority and minority reports in 1974, the whole matter was then referred to a newly established Ad-Interim Committee on Number of Offices. For more on the long history of this latter Committee, click here.

Background and Comparison :
PCA 1973, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 138
To preserve the purity of the preaching of the Gospel in our Churches, no man is permitted to preach in the pulpits of our churches on a regular basis without proper licensure from the Presbytery of the National Presbyterian Church. The word and Sacraments are committed to the ordained ministry of the Word. Ruling Elders who have demonstrated their gifts are eligible for licensure by their presbytery to preach the Word. Candidates for the Gospel Ministry, desiring to preach on a regular basis in our Churches, should be licensed.

Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, 20-1, Proposed text, p. 23
To preserve the purity of the preaching of the Gospel in our Churches, no man is permitted to preach in the pulpits of our churches on a regular basis without proper licensure from the Presbytery of the _____________________________________ Church. Ruling Elders who have demonstrated their gifts are eligible for licensure by their Presbytery. Candidates for the Gospel Ministry, desiring to preach on a regular basis in our Churches, should be licensed.

PCUS 1933, § 109
and
PCUS 1925, § 109
A candidate for the ministry is licensed by the Presbytery to preach the Gospel in order that, after he has made sufficient trial of his gifts and the Presbytery has received assurance of his approval by the Church, he may be ordained to the sacred office of the gospel ministry. However, if a candidate has been called to a definite work which he desires to accept, and the Presbytery is satisfied by his examination for licensure that he meets the requirements for ordination, the licensure may be omitted and the Presbytery may proceed at once to ordain him to the full ministry of the Gospel.

PCUS 1879, VI-6-1

Presbyteries shall license probationers to preach the gospel, in order that, after sufficiently trying their gifts, and receiving from the church a good report, they may, in due time, ordain them to the sacred office.

PCUS 1869 draft, VI-6-1
Presbyteries shall license probationers to preach the Gospel, in order that after sufficiently trying their talents, and receiving from the Church a good report, they may, in due time, ordain them to the sacred office.

PCUS 1867 draft, VI-6-1
Presbyteries shall license probationers to preach the gospel, in order that after sufficiently trying their talents, and receiving from the church a good report, they may, in due time, ordain them to the sacred office.

COMMENTARY :
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order
(1898, pp. 156-157), on VI-6-1
Section VI.--Of the Licensure of Probationers for the Gospel Ministry.
The section contains two preliminary paragraphs, one defining the object of licensure and one prescribing what Presbytery, and upon what conditions, whall take up the question of licensing a candidate ; four on evidences of fitness for licensure, of which the first prescribes three preliminary tests, the next outlines the body of the trials, the third states the end and limit of these examinations, and the last permits licensure in extraordinary cases ; two on the act of licensure, one prescribing the obligations to be demanded of the licentiate, and one the form of licensure ; two on transfer of candidates in process of examination for licensure, and of unordained licentiates ; and two concerning the duties of the licensed probationer, and the withdrawal of license.
129.--I. Presbyteries shall license probationers to preach the gospel, in order that, after sufficiently trying their gifts, and receiving from the church a good report, they may, in due time, ordain them to the sacred office.
Licensure is a tentative ordination ; for the essence of ordination does not lie in the ceremony of the imposition of hands, but in the decision of the ordaining court to recognize a man as appointed by Christ to an office. And licensure is a tentative recognition. But it is tentative. the candidate is licensed as a Probationer. Especially is it necessary to bring into use the test of the call of the Spirit through the people of God ; and the special object of licensure is in order to the application of this test.

 



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19
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I. King & Head of Church
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RoD
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II. Preliminary Principles
§1
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DfW
47
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[FoG = Form of Government ; RoD = Rules of Discipline ; DfW = Directory for Worship]